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Answering The Atheist
January 18, 2004 / Volume 4, Issue 3

Matthew 2:23 reads, "...that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.'" There is no mention by the Old Testament prophets that this Jesus fellow would be called a Nazarene. Is there a contradiction?

The questioner is absolutely correct, none of the Old Testament prophets gave a prophecy which stated that Jesus would be called a Nazarene. However, before we pull out the party balloons and noise makers for the atheists, let's explore some possible explanations of Matthew's words.

1. It is possible that Matthew is referencing a specific prophecy which was not recorded in any Old Testament book, but passed down verbally or revealed specifically to the New Testament writer. Jude quotes a prophecy of Enoch (Jude 14-15) and Paul referenced a Cretan prophet (Titus 1:12), but neither original account appears in the Bible. Matthew's reference here may be the same.

2. It is believed by some that the Greek nazaret (translated "Nazareth") is related to the Hebrew netzer (translated "branch", "sprout", figuratively). Isaiah 11:1 reads, "There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch (netzer) shall grow out of his roots." (also see Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12). If a relationship exists between these words, perhaps Matthew had Isaiah's prophecy in mind.

3. With no prophet particularly referenced, and no specific prophecy (unlike Matthew 1:22; 2:5, 15), it is possible that Matthew's statement is based upon a general view or theme given through the prophets, and not specific words which they spoke (ie. Acts 3:18, 24). The Old Testament revealed Jesus to be despised among men, viewed with contempt, and rejected (Psalm 22:6-8; 69:9-11, 19-21; Isaiah 53:2-4, 7-9). This being the case, what better name to be applied to the Christ in first century Israel than "Nazarene"? Notice the contempt with which Nazareth of Galilee was held:
– "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46)
– "Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee." (John 7:52)

Which is the correct explanation? I suppose it would take a smarter man than I. Perhaps it is one of these; perhaps another explanation exists; perhaps it is all of these together. However, the point is, there are valid solutions to this supposed discrepancy. Thus, we feel confident to conclude, there is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible, but original article is no longer listed